USABRAC Transforms Aberdeen Proving Ground Mission

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., March 7, 2011 — With just over six months left to imple­ment the Base Clo­sure and Realign­ment Com­mis­sion plan, the sweep­ing trans­for­ma­tion it has sparked here is well under way and slat­ed to be com­plet­ed on time and under bud­get, offi­cials report­ed.
The BRAC plan took effect in Novem­ber 2005, and impacts more than 800 mil­i­tary instal­la­tions. It involves clos­ing some, con­sol­i­dat­ing or realign­ing oth­ers, and ulti­mate­ly relo­cat­ing some 123,000 mil­i­tary mem­bers and civil­ian employ­ees. By law, all these actions must be com­plet­ed by Sept. 15, 2011.

U.S. Army Ordnance Center and Schools
Brig. Gen. Lynn A. Coll­yar, com­man­der of the U.S. Army Ord­nance Cen­ter and Schools, and Reg­i­men­tal Com­mand Sgt. Maj. Daniel A. Eubanks case the col­ors of the U.S. Army Ord­nance Cen­ter and Schools dur­ing a May 8, 2009 cer­e­mo­ny, bring­ing an end of an era at Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground, Md.
U.S. Army pho­to by Sean Kief
Click to enlarge

The plan is bring­ing major growth to Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground — more than 6,500 peo­ple and more than $1 bil­lion in new con­struc­tion to accom­mo­date the new work­ers, Army Col. Orlan­do W. Ortiz, the gar­ri­son com­man­der, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

But it’s also bring­ing a fun­da­men­tal change to the post’s his­toric mis­sion, and how the Army ensures its warfight­ers have the most advanced equip­ment and sys­tems pos­si­ble to suc­ceed on the bat­tle­field.

The U.S. Army Ord­nance Cen­ter and School, the major ten­ant that defined Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground’s very iden­ti­ty for near­ly a cen­tu­ry, already has moved to Fort Lee, Va. There, it is part of the new Sus­tain­ment Cen­ter of Excel­lence, anoth­er BRAC ini­tia­tive.

As offi­cials here closed a page on their post’s lega­cy, they were busy prepar­ing to open an excit­ing new one that would trans­form the instal­la­tion into a hub of cut­ting-edge com­mu­ni­ca­tions and elec­tron­ics tech­nol­o­gy.

Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground has long been heav­i­ly involved in the Army’s research, devel­op­ment, test­ing and eval­u­a­tion mis­sion, explained Army Col. Andrew Nel­son, deputy gar­ri­son com­man­der for trans­for­ma­tion. But by con­sol­i­dat­ing many dis­parate and geo­graph­i­cal­ly sep­a­rat­ed orga­ni­za­tions that sup­port­ed those process­es here at one post, BRAC is “bring­ing it to the next lev­el,” he said.

“Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground has been, but will be to a greater extent, one of the Army’s major hubs of research and devel­op­ment of new tech­nolo­gies, and the test­ing and eval­u­a­tion of those new tech­nolo­gies that lead to field­ing new sys­tems to sup­port the warfight­er,” Nel­son said.

“This is the cen­ter of all of that — the tech­nol­o­gy devel­op­ment that is lead­ing to sol­diers being bet­ter equipped and bet­ter sup­port­ed in the oper­a­tional envi­ron­ment where they are,” he said. “It’s the clothes they wear, the radios they speak through, the com­put­er sys­tem that tracks where indi­vid­ual vehi­cles and sol­diers are on the bat­tle­field, to hav­ing [unmanned aer­i­al vehi­cles] that give them the best intel­li­gence of what the ene­my is doing.

“That is what Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground already is, and what it will be about,” Nel­son said. “Every­thing we do here is all about ensur­ing that the indi­vid­ual sol­dier and the com­bat leader have the best pos­si­ble equip­ment and sys­tems and tech­nol­o­gy that is giv­ing them the advan­tage on the bat­tle­field.”

The biggest group of new arrivals to sup­port this expand­ed mis­sion is a col­lec­tion of activ­i­ties referred to as “the C4ISR materiel enter­prise” that focus­es on com­mand, con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­put­ers, intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance.

The lion’s share of its 7,200 peo­ple are com­ing from Fort Mon­mouth, N.J., which is clos­ing under BRAC and trans­fer­ring most of its func­tions to Aberdeen. The new arrivals hail from Fort Monmouth’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Elec­tron­ics Com­mand and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions-Elec­tron­ic Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter and sev­er­al of their pro­gram exec­u­tive offices. Oth­ers are arriv­ing from relat­ed activ­i­ties at Red­stone Arse­nal, Ala.; Fort Huachu­ca, Ariz.; and Fort Belvoir, Va.

CECOM estab­lished a for­ward pres­ence at Aberdeen in 2007, and offi­cial­ly uncased its col­ors here in Octo­ber 2010. A steady stream of its work­force began arriv­ing this past sum­mer, some direct­ly from Fort Mon­mouth, some from tem­po­rary swing space at Aberdeen and oth­ers, new hires replac­ing work­ers who chose not to relo­cate.

Today, about 60 per­cent of the new C4ISR team already has made the move to Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground, set­tling into the state-of-the-art research and devel­op­ment cam­pus known as the “C4ISR Cen­ter of Excel­lence.”

Mean­while, con­struc­tion crews are putting the fin­ish­ing touch­es on the sec­ond phase of the C4ISR project, which Nel­son said is expect­ed to be com­plet­ed this month or next. The entire C4ISR com­plex, once com­plete, will include 13 build­ings and more than 2.5 mil­lion square feet of new space.

The next-largest group of new­com­ers to Aberdeen, num­ber­ing just over 600, hails from the Army Test and Eval­u­a­tion Com­mand head­quar­ters and Army Eval­u­a­tion Cen­ter, both in Alexan­dria, Va. While con­struc­tion was wrap­ping up on its new head­quar­ters, Army Maj. Gen. Genaro Del­laroc­co opt­ed to move direct­ly to Aberdeen, rather than tem­porar­i­ly to Alexan­dria, when he assumed com­mand in Octo­ber. Work­ing in swing space at Aberdeen, he’s paving the way for the rest of the head­quar­ters ele­ments to fol­low, while super­vis­ing sub­or­di­nate com­mands that were already based at Aberdeen when the BRAC rec­om­men­da­tions were announced.

In addi­tion, BRAC is con­sol­i­dat­ing a vari­ety of oth­er orga­ni­za­tions at Aberdeen. These include the Joint Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Office for Chem­i­cal and Bio­log­i­cal Defense from Falls Church, Va.; Air Force Non-Med­ical Chem­i­cal-Bio­log­i­cal Defense Devel­op­ment and Acqui­si­tion, from Brooks City Base, Texas; the Wal­ter Reed Army Insti­tute of Research from For­est Glen, Md., the Army Research Insti­tute from Fort Knox, Ky., and the Army Research Laboratory’s Vehi­cle Tech­nol­o­gy Direc­torate from Lan­g­ley, Va., and Glenn, Ohio.

The BRAC ini­tia­tive also has brought a broad range of defense con­trac­tors to Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground, where many are oper­at­ing in a new 416-acre com­plex just out­side the gate.

Ortiz cred­it­ed detailed plan­ning that start­ed before the ink had even dried on the BRAC 2005 rec­om­men­da­tions with ensur­ing the post is ready to receive the new arrivals.

The plan­ners worked close­ly with inbound orga­ni­za­tions to iden­ti­fy their exact require­ments, and with state and local offi­cials to ensure sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties were pre­pared for the influx.

And, able to take advan­tage of an eco­nom­ic slump that made bid­ding on the 17 major con­struc­tion projects required at Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground high­ly com­pet­i­tive, they real­ized huge cost-sav­ings in imple­ment­ing BRAC.

“In our fis­cal year 2010 pro­gram, we were award­ing con­tracts at 60 to 70 per­cent of what the gov­ern­ment esti­mate was [in 2005],” Nel­son said. “That’s a big sav­ings, mon­ey the Army did­n’t have to invest here.”

The first major con­struc­tion project, a new gate with five vehi­cle inspec­tion lanes, was com­plet­ed in May 2009. As the oth­er projects took shape around the instal­la­tion, less obvi­ous to casu­al observers were the tremen­dous infra­struc­ture improve­ments required to sup­port them. These includ­ed mul­ti­ple-lane gate access­es, road­ways, water, sew­er and elec­tri­cal line and miles and miles of fiber optic cabling.

Excit­ing as these new devel­op­ments are, Ortiz said he’s made a con­cert­ed effort to ensure Aberdeen’s 70-plus pre­vi­ous ten­ants don’t get short shrift. “We don’t want haves and have-nots,” he said.

So the post has under­tak­en a mas­sive plan to upgrade exist­ing facil­i­ties and demol­ish many of its old World War I- and II-era build­ings. Ulti­mate­ly, plans call for demol­ish­ing 188 facil­i­ties and 775 hous­ing units over the next five years. As these efforts con­tin­ue, Nel­son said he expects lots of activ­i­ty at Aberdeen dur­ing the spring and sum­mer months as work­ers move into new or ren­o­vat­ed facil­i­ties. July is expect­ed to be par­tic­u­lar­ly busy.

With the clock tick­ing down, Ortiz said he’s con­fi­dent Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground is on track to ful­ly com­ply with the Sept. 15 BRAC dead­line.

“We’ve already inte­grat­ed a size­able num­ber of the new work­ers and the build­ings that aren’t already com­plet­ed are very far along,” he said. “The con­di­tions are pret­ty well set.” The plan is going so well, in fact, that Ortiz expects Sept. 16, the first work­day after the BRAC dead­line, to be “just anoth­er day at work” at Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground.

“I hon­est­ly do not believe that on Sept. 16, folks are going to notice any­thing dif­fer­ent,” he said. “As the locals will tell you, for us, BRAC has already hap­pened. The mag­ic of that Sept. 15 date has long come and gone.”

So instead of fix­at­ing on the BRAC dead­line, Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground is focus­ing on its new, expand­ed mis­sion, Ortiz said.

“What we’re focus­ing on is the future,” he said.“That’s where we real­ly need to go.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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